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Toi Toi Toi

Shakespeare in the house: Opera in the Heights' new season tunes to 19th century Italy

Enrique Carreón-Robledo
Since artistic director Enrique Carreón-Robledo stepped up to the conductor's podium, there's a renewed energy at the small opera company. Photo by Jose Jorge Carreón

Toi Toi Toi! Opera in the Heights 2012-13 program lineup may be ambitious. But since artistic director Enrique Carreón-Robledo stepped up to the conductor's podium, the company's musical forces won't need to "break a leg" to pull it off.

The maestro turns to William Shakespeare for inspiration and sticks with shows of 19th-century Italian provenance, which includes two works never seen before in Houston and a nod to Verdi's bicentennial in 2013.  

The season is a chronolog covering roughly 70 years of operatic history only — from Gioachino Rossini's 1826 Otello to Verdi's Falstaff of 1893. But who can argue with focusing on such a rich period of development, one that moves from sultry bel canto to yearning Romanticism with a touch of comedy?

 The maestro turns to William Shakespeare for inspiration and sticks with shows of 19th century Italian provenance, which includes two works never seen before in Houston.

It's all together fitting for a company committed to nurturing emerging artists. 

Rossini's Otello (Sept. 27 to Oct 7), not to be confused with Verdi's more dramatic setting of 1887, is rarely staged. Actually, this run marks the Houston premiere of the opera that served as the guide for Verdi's treatment of Shakespearean texts.

The question is: Will Carreón-Robledo opt for the tragic conclusion or the alternative happy ending? Yes, there are two possibilities, and that's typical for musicals of the 19th century.​ 

Vincenzo Bellini's I Capuleti e I Montecchi (Nov. 8 to 18) is fancy for Romeo and Juliet. It may be a more political version than what audiences are accustomed to — perhaps the reason why it also hasn't been staged in Houston — but like good Shakespeare drama, both characters still expire at the end.

Just don't be surprised when a mezzo puts on the pants to take on the role of Romeo, as was the practice of the day.  

There's a lot more death in Verdi's Macbeth (Feb. 1 to 10, 2013). Though Lady Macbeth will try, she won't be able to wash the blood from her hands in this gut wrenching murderous tale of corruption of power. Ghosts appear and prophecies fulfill at the sword of one character who wasn't "born of woman."

Verdi's Falstaff (April 25 to May 5, 2013), his final opera and his second comedy, closes the season. It was in 2009 when Opera in the Heights took on Falstaff: Audiences loved it, critics adored it and everyone laughed.

Tickets to individual performances start at $25, $21 for seniors and $10 for students. Season subscriptions start at $89, $76 for seniors and $38 for students. Purchase online or by calling 713-861-5303.

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